KEY ISSUES FROM THE BUDGET PRESENTATION BY THE HON MINISTER OF FINANCE – ZUFIAW
5th October 2022
On Friday, September 30, 2022, the Hon. Minister of Finance and National Planning, Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane, presented a K167 billion national budget for the year 2023 with the theme “Stimulating Economic Growth for Improved Livelihoods”. The Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW) hereby notes some of the key issues of interest highlighted in the Budget, whose theme resonates with the Union’s key objectives of improving the livelihood of workers, decent job creation, and job security. The General Secretary of the Union, Mr. Kasapo Sundrea Kabende, has highlighted the following:
- The recruitment of 2000 police officers is not only a step in the right direction in ensuring national security but also a welcome initiative in terms of job provision for many young people in the country. This recruitment needs to be accompanied by increased funding to the Zambia Police Service in order to facilitate expansion and delivery of timely and quality service. He has also called on the Government to ensure every community has a police post so that the citizens are safe, considering the increased crime levels in the country.
- The proposed recruitment of an additional 4,500 teachers resonates well with Government’s agenda of providing free and quality education. This shall ensure a balanced teacher-to-pupil ratio considering the thousands of young learners that have gone back to school since the introduction of free education in the country. This move by Government will also create business opportunities for most of our social partners.
- The 3,000 health sector jobs are a timely response to the needs and requirements of this critical sector. The personnel being recruited under this initiative shall help reduce the high burden of illness, staff shortages, increasing poverty and health deficit, poor distribution of resources in the rural areas; and the difficulties faced by both clinics and hospitals in delivering quality health services to the citizens. ZUFIAW is also excited to learn that out of the 11,000 health personnel recruited this year, 8,563 are already on the payroll.
- The reintroduction of meal allowances for students in Government institutions shall go a long way in easing the hardships and challenges students face in their academic life. He has further requested the Government to extend these allowances to students in private Universities as a way of creating a fair and conducive environment for all learners.
- The upward adjustment of CDF allocation from K25.7M to K28.3M shall enable Constituencies to effectively conduct and complete their projects with relative ease. Furthermore, the government’s decision to forgo recalling any unused CDF funds ensures that resources will be easily accessible for constituencies starting in 2022 to carry out any unfinished or redundant projects and activities. He has called on union members to take advantage of the Government’s initiative of decentralization by forming cooperatives. He has also pledged to support all Union members across the Country in the formation of cooperatives using the Informal Sector Department at the Union Secretariat.
- The initiative to modernise Tevet institutions is a step in the right direction as this will provide a platform for innovation and economic growth. This commitment has been further demonstrated by the Government’s decision to complete works on pending projects such as the Mporokoso Trades training institute.
- The revision of the PAYE lowest threshold from K4,500 to K4,800, the second threshold from K4,801 to K6,800 at 20% from 25%, and K6,801 to K8, 900 at 30% will provide a cushion for workers in the interim. The Union is on record calling for the revisiting of the tax regime, which remains very high at 37.5% for Pay As You Earn. We urge the government to consider further reducing the PAYE tax burden on workers in the next budget.
- In line with the country’s agenda to modernize and digitalize its operations in line with global trends, the tax waiver on ICT products shall ensure that individuals and businesses are able to import ICT products at relatively cheaper rates and this shall in turn enable them to provide ICT goods and services to citizens at cheaper rates.
- The decision to electrify all schools in the country is long overdue and will enable learners to have access to quality education facilities. The Government needs to supplement this initiative with the provision of an effective ICT learning environment in order to derive maximum benefits. This will demand a revision of the school curriculum.
- The plight of the most vulnerable in our society cannot be over-emphasized. The decision to increase the number of people receiving social cash transfers from 973,333 to 1,374,000 in 2023 is an action that will aid in easing some of the difficulties most of our citizens are currently experiencing.
- The Union has over the years bemoaned the plight of retirees and the decision by the Government for retirees to get their pension benefits 3 months after retirement is a welcome move. Our former members have been subjected to unnecessary delays when accessing their benefits, and most of them have died before accessing their benefits.
- Early learning and early development for children in their academic life are critical to their later development. The Union is elated by the announcement that the government intends to complete around 65 early childhood schools by 2023.
- Further, the Union was gravely concerned to note that around 115 secondary schools had stayed for more than 10 years without completion when there are a number of children in the country without access to proper education. Therefore, the decision by the Government to complete the development of these schools is a timely initiative that also resonates well with the employment of more teachers. It is also commendable that, with the help of the World Bank, Government intends to construct a further 120 Secondary schools across the country to ensure that more pupils have access to a decent education.
- The decision to employ more agriculture extension officers shall be a more effective communication platform between researchers and farmers, thus helping farmers in their decision-making and ensuring that appropriate knowledge is implemented to obtain the best results regarding sustainable production and general rural development. The Government has truly demonstrated its desire to grow the Agriculture Sector.
Mr. KABENDE further urged Government to ensure that the proposals made in the 2023 budget are fully actualized for the country to benefit from the progressive budget presented to parliament by the Honourable Minister. He also affirmed that, in line with the motto and values of the Union, ZUFIAW will continue to support progressive initiatives by the Government of the day aimed at improving the lives of workers in the country. He further, called on all well-meaning Zambians to work with Government while continuing to provide credible checks and balances on national issues.
Kasapo Sundrea Kabende